PASTOR, PASTORS, POPES, AND DEACONS
Much that is made in history over strict orthodoxy in the church both in practice and in names seems to be falling by the wayside in the modern dumbing down of churches through what seems to be endless expansion of definition of terms. I reference primarily the term “pastor.” Are you ready to think with me? Please do!
An illustration of the subject matter at hand is the recent abandonment of the office of Pope by the head of the Catholic Church. According to them, he is the vicar of Christ, successor, of the apostle Peter. That title designates a single authoritative individual succeeding the previous one at death. . . . until now. So, the Pope decided for whatever reason, he did not want to be Pope any longer. A new one must be elected, but the former one is still alive and so designated as that successor. Now there are two living popes. Confusing? Rather! But this is an illustration. On the other hand, what is going on in the Lord’s churches?
A New Testament church has two divinely created offices: pastor and deacon. God calls men into the gospel ministry qualifying them to be the pastor of one of His churches. Churches select men (deacons) to serve them in various capacities as they have need. This has been the biblical and time honored status for the past two thousand years, but things appear to be changing in many churches.
Nowadays, some churches, large or small, have weakened the meaning and exclusiveness of “pastor” by designating others not having a life calling of God to that office as a youth pastor, a seniors’ pastor, a worship pastor (song leader), perhaps a nursery pastor, as well as a senior pastor who usually is the God-called minister and spiritual leader, but not always senior in age. The stripping or expanding of the strict definition of a church pastor to include most any and everything surely lends much deterioration to the meaning and respect of the office and office holder. This usually emanates from a desire to exceed Bible elevation of those who serve in various ministries of the church or else from a desire to lessen the exclusiveness of the God-called leader or both, and it is not good (strange as it seems, this practice makes some unseasoned pastors feel important). Soon every Sunday School Teacher will be known as a “Class Pastor” which leaves only the folks in the pews. Surely they will become known as “Pew Pastors.” If a title must be bestowed on those who serve the church who are not the God-called, spiritual leader, then what is wrong with “deacon?” It is a good, biblical word and it literally means “servant.” It would be so much more fitting and honorable to them who are not called of God into a separate life of spiritual leadership as is a God-called pastor, but are so selected by the church that they serve which may define the description and duration of their duties. But then, what is the real purpose in any action such as this multi-pastor title in the first place? Doubtless, every extra-scriptural action consistently yields increased, undesirable, and possibly unscriptural results. Chalk this writer up as a voice of old-school Baptists.
Tag Archives: deacons
Four generations pastor the same church
Edward Wightman was the last Englishman to be martyred on April 11, 1612 for heresy. He was considered a radical Anabaptist. Five Wightman brothers came to America, all Baptists – two were preachers; two were deacons; one a private member of the church. Valentine Wightman was the son of one of the five and was born in Kingston, Rhode Island, in 1681. In 1705 his church licensed him to preach and he moved to Groton, Connecticut, and planted the First Baptist church in the colony of CT. His fame spread after a seven hour debate with Rev. John Bulkey in 1727 on the subject of Baptism. In 1714 he planted the First Baptist church in the state of N.Y. Valentine died on June 9, 1747, after ministering 42 years in Groton. The church at Groton continued under the ministry of Valentine’s son Timothy Wightman who saw great revivals from time to time from 1764 to 1787. A second Baptist church was established in Groton in 1765. Timothy served during the Revolutionary War and stood for the defense of liberty. He died on Nov. 14, 1796 after having also served for 42 years in the same church that his father had founded. His son, John Gano Wightman accepted the call to the church on Aug. 13, 1800. His first wife died in 1816 and on July 7, 1817, he married Bridget Allyn who served faithfully by his side. The church experienced at least ten seasons of refreshing revival during this time. Another church was established in Groton in 1831. John died on July 13, 1841 and thus concluded 125 years of ministry by grandfather, father, and son who led the work in Groton, CT. Interestingly, on June 12, 1864 the Rev. Palmer G. Wightman, grandson of the Rev. John Gano Wightman, was ordained pastor of the Groton church, and a great revival broke out.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: adapted From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp.278-79.
Ordination of “Colored” Billy Harriss
The history of the First Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia, records the fact that “colored deacons were elected, whose duty it was to watch over slave and free Negro members. According to custom, the church licensed certain colored men who, by consecration and aptitude, seemed best fitted to ‘exercise their spiritual gifts in public.’ “ At least fifteen years prior to William Carey’s sailing for India, George Lisle, the “first ordained Baptist Negro in America,” went to Jamaica as a missionary. Lott Carey, member of the First Baptist Church of Richmond, purchased his and his children’s freedom for eight hundred and fifty dollars in 1813. Carey, along with Collin Teague, sailed in 1821 for Liberia and established the First Baptist Church in Monrovia. Prior to the Civil War, Abraham Marshall, pastor at Kiokee, ordained Andrew Bryan in Savannah. It was prior to the Civil War that John Jasper was saved and sent by his “master” to preach the gospel. However, the church minutes prior to the Civil war always alluded to blacks as “belonging to . . . “ and the name of the “master” followed. After the Civil War, the minutes named the black and then stated, “formerly the property of . . . .” Following the Civil War, as before, blacks were still ordained into the gospel ministry. On April 21, 1867, we read from the Kiokee minutes: “The Baptist Church of Christ at Kiokee met and proceeded to the ordination of Brother Billy Hariss, colored, to preach the Gospel.
Dr. Dale R. Hart Adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, p. 162